Is the weather outside too frightful? What to do in lieu of a walk.
-tug-of-war (make sure your dog knows the “drop it” cue).
-hide-and-seek (also a fun way to reinforce coming to you).
-a treasure hunt (hide treats and toys around the house).
-a game of chase, or fetch.
Incorporate training. You can use games to reinforce behaviours you like. For example, when I play fetch with my dogs, I'll ask them for a sit or a down before throwing ball.
There are many “mind games” on the market. Nina Ottasson makes great puzzle-like toys for dogs, and these can be found in most retail pet stores. You can make your own homemade puzzle by taking a muffin tray, placing some treats in a few cups, and topping the holes with tennis balls. Interactive toys are a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and busy. Kongs can be stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese, pure pumpkin, or yogurt and then frozen to make them last longer. Google Kong recipes for dogs.
Set up a safe homemade agility course. I’ve seen creative ones, such as placing a broom across two pillows to create a small jump. Try teaching your dog a new trick or behaviour or work on ones that your dog already knows and start to add in distractions, duration, and distance to help proof those behaviours.
Sing with your dog. Give your dog a massage. Read up on Tellington Touch Massage. Do some basic grooming while watching a movie together. Arrange for a play date with one of your dog’s friends in either of your homes.
My friend, a veterinarian, takes marrowbones and wraps them in newspaper or paper towel and lets her dog go to town. It can be messy, but she doesn’t mind as long as her dog is having fun.
Here are some suggestions that involve going out but not outside for a walk:
Visit family and friends with your dog, or go to a store that allows dogs. Go to the vet’s office to only get a cookie and then leave. That will help your dog make a positive association with the clinic. You could even just go for a nice drive together.
Take a class like a tricks class, agility, freestyle, lure coursing, nose work, or an obedience course.
Be creative and have fun. Engaging their mind will tire them out. And as the old adage goes: A tired dog is a good dog.
Marlo Hiltz, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP